If you don’t agree that the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial has problems because the statue looks like a monument to Kim il-Sung, then maybe you will find this argument from The Root more convincing.
It turns out that MLK’s family has a history of extracting large royalties from any attempt to use MLK’s image. It also seems that the family’s request for payment for a memorial on the National Mall is unprecedented. According to the article, “[T]he National Park Service said that, to its knowledge, no one had ever before charged such a fee.”
The builders of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial at the National Mall had to pay $761,160 for the right to use King’s words and images, according to financial documents obtained by the Associated Press. The money went to Intellectual Properties Management Inc. — a foundation controlled by King’s youngest son, Dexter. Another $71,000 was paid out in a “management fee” to the family estate back in 2003.
I hope I’m not the only one who found the opening of this monument soured by what could be considered extortion. In any case, I’m especially ticked off, perhaps because I was an activist and organizer in the Southern freedom movement of the 1960s.
I cannot know this for sure, of course, but I doubt that the family of the murdered John F. Kennedy would charge a fee to a group organizing to place a memorial to him on the National Mall. As historian and King biographer David Garrow told the AP, “I don’t think the Jefferson family, the Lincoln family [or] any other group of family ancestors has been paid a licensing fee for a memorial in Washington.”
The King children have long tried to make a buck off their martyred dad, demanding money even when his name is invoked in celebration. In the 1990s, the King children sued USA Today and CBS News for broadcasting their father’s “I Have a Dream Speech” without payment. They won; a court declared the speech a “performance” and, thus, subject to copyright laws.
I will not denounce the trivializing of King’s remarks that this decision reflects, but I must note that the King children have sold the right to use that speech in commercials to Alcatel, a French telecommunications giant.
None of this diminishes the importance of the King Memorial, but this writer, anyway, wishes that even at risk of delay, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation had called young Dexter out on his shameless profiteering.